Morgan Stanley
  • Institute for Sustainable Investing
  • Nov 21, 2019

Our Plastic Waste Resolution: Progress Six Months In

Scaling citizen science and green bonds are a few ways we’re advancing our commitment to help reduce plastic waste.

It’s been six months since we announced the Morgan Stanley Plastic Waste Resolution, our commitment to help facilitate the prevention, reduction and removal of 50 million metric tons of plastic waste in rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills by 2030.

Since its widespread introduction 70 years ago, plastic has been a revolutionary material making vehicles more energy efficient, medical devices more durable, food stays fresher longer and allows all of us to work and communicate in ways that would not otherwise be possible. But all of these benefits have come with a hefty price: Plastic waste.

Some scientists estimate that by 2050, the seas will hold more plastic than fish.

We produce plastic waste at such a high volume that some scientists estimate that by 2050, the seas will hold more plastic than fish, and despite our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, 79% of the plastic waste produced since 1950 remains with us today in landfills and scattered throughout the environment. Morgan Stanley was the first financial institution to make a commitment like this because we know that it will take the collective power of industry, government, consumers and finance to reverse the tide.

Citizen Science: The Marine Debris Tracker

That’s also why we’ve partnered with National Geographic Society and the University of Georgia College of Engineering on the Marine Debris Tracker app. The Debris Tracker is the only litter-tracking tool that scales and enhances the citizen science movement to help prevent and reduce plastic waste in coastlines and waterways by allowing individuals to log plastic pollution and provide educational materials about the sources of, and solutions to, plastic waste. Already over 2 million items have been tracked.

Green Bonds: Pepsi’s Commitment

Another recent exciting sign that business is stepping up to the challenge just came from PepsiCo, one of the world’s leading food, snack and beverage companies, which announced an offering of its first green bond. With Morgan Stanley as the sole green structuring advisor and lead underwriter, this $1 billion bond will fund sustainable initiatives across the company, including a commitment to reduce virgin plastic content in their supply chain by 35% by 2025, which aligns with Morgan Stanley’s plastic waste pledge.

Plastic bags like the ones we often find ourselves mindlessly carrying out of stores have an average 'working life' of only 12 minutes.

Going Forward: Actions Big and Small

The urgency to rid our environment of plastic waste will require many more large-scale commitments, as well as action from individuals. A million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute, and plastic bags like the ones we often find ourselves mindlessly carrying out of stores have an average “working life” of only 12 minutes. So while drinking from a reusable water bottle and carrying our own reusable bags may appear to be small gestures when compared to a $1 billion green bond, they are in reality important signifiers to businesses, entrepreneurs, inventors and investors that we care about plastic waste and expect them to care as well.

I’m optimistic we’ll find solutions because the current commitments coming from industry and individuals indicate increasing awareness and desire to have a role in solving our plastic waste problem, and strongly signal that we’re all moving together in the right direction.